The Washington Post

Md. law enforcement officials condemn ruling stopping DNA collection

Earlier this week, Maryland’s Court of Appeals issued a controversial 5-2 ruling: Police can no longer collect DNA samples after arresting those suspected of burglary and violent crimes.

The ruling came in the case of Alonzo Jay King Jr., who was convicted of a 2003 rape after his DNA — which connected him to the rape — was collected in a 2009 assault arrest.

“While King’s assault trial was pending, his DNA was entered into a statewide database and linked to the rape,” the Baltimore Sun reported. “He was convicted of first-degree rape and received a life sentence; he also was found guilty in the 2009 assault. On Tuesday, the high court reversed the rape conviction; the second-degree assault conviction stands.”

Law enforcement officials are now only allowed to collect DNA after a conviction. And they are not happy about it.

Statements of disappointment are starting to come in from around the state:

Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy: “I reject the rationale of the majority opinion. ... The taking of a cheek swab is no more of an infringement of a person’s fourth amendment right to privacy than the taking of fingerprints, which is a routine booking procedure done hundreds of times daily across the State of Maryland.”

Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger: “These DNA hits enable law enforcement to apprehend repeat offenders that prey upon our citizens, thereby making our communities safer for everyone.”

William J. McMahon, Howard County police chief and president of the Maryland Chiefs of Po lice Association: “Over the last few years, we have been able to remove violent offenders from our streets and solve serious cases that may have gone unsolved. This is a tool that has been invaluable in our effort and duty to keep citizens safe.”

Meanwhile, David Rocah of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland told the Sun that the ruling “makes clear that there are limits on the government’s ability to collect DNA from people who are not convicted of a crime. I am very glad that the court has finally put up a roadblock to the continued expansion [of DNA collection].”

I will keep updating this post with reaction from other law enforcement agencies. Meanwhile, what do you think of the ruling?

Michael Rosenwald is a reporter on the Post's local enterprise team. He writes about the intersection of technology, business and culture.

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